Hernan Fermin, chairman of the board at the Ikthus Fellowship Church in Bacolod City, stands with a group of Compassion-assisted children who his church serves.
Ikthus Fellowship Church wasn't looking for another ministry opportunity. This church of more than 2,000 members had strategic partnerships with groups throughout Bacolod City. Services were full. Offerings were strong.
Ikthus may not have been looking for another ministry opportunity but one was looking for them. In 2005, workers from Compassion Philippines invited leaders from the church to attend an informational meeting with other church leaders in Bacolod City.
At this meeting, Ikthus leaders were surprised to feel stirred by the facts laid before them. How could they have missed this need in their own city?
A Forgotten Community
Staffers from Compassion Philippines sought a church partner willing to run the newest child development center, which would serve the children of Mandalagan, a community in the inner city of Bacolod.
Mandalagan is home to more than 26,000 residents. Ninety percent of the adults living there do not own their land, and most are squatters, living illegally in abandoned homes and buildings. The majority of children are malnourished, and dengue fever epidemics are a constant problem. Most adults make less than U.S.$2 a day, and 25 percent of the children will never attend school.
Church leaders at Ikthus committed themselves to praying about the partnership. The more they prayed, the more they saw a gaping hole in their ministries. This church, which expertly ran eight services and balanced dozens of ministries, had few programs for children. For years they had discussed opening a school but the words never amounted to action. Members and leaders believed it was finally time to reach out to the children of their city.
As soon as Compassion Philippines told leaders at Ikthus that they had been chosen to run the new child development center, they immediately began canvassing Mandalagan for children to register in the program. But the task was not easy. "At first, the families we registered were apprehensive to join because they have received so many promises from politicians that never came true," says Hernan Fermin, chairman of the board for Ikthus Fellowship. "They doubted us. So, we treated all of the parents of registered children to a dinner to show and explain to them that we are real."
Hope for the Future
By the time the Ikthus Student Activities and Advocacy Center (PH-836) opened, 125 children were registered. Church leaders say the child development training they received from Compassion also enriched existing child-focused ministries, including Ikthus' ministry to street children and the school they recently opened. "For several years we planned to begin a school and now we finally started with the Compassion children," says Fermin. "All of the registered children are enrolled in the school, and they are becoming scholars."
Only one year into the partnership with Compassion, Ikthus is thrilled to grow its child development center in order to reach more children and families. A once-mediocre children's program has become an example to every church in the city. And Ikthus is determined to keep the momentum.
"One of our short-term goals is to provide education for Compassion parents," says Fermin. "We plan to offer a speech class for the parents soon. We want to offer education to parents and give them hope, too."
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